Trench collapse raises safety questions
Three workers buried May 3 when a trench collapsed in Northwest Boise were digging a path to connect a sewer line to four new homes. Two of them, Bert Smith Jr., 36, and Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata, 26, died of asphyxia.
It was unclear what caused the trench collapse or whether a trench box or other support was in place.
Hard Rock Construction, a Meridian excavation company, was in charge of the project. The city permit says job safety is the responsibility of the contractor/plumber. Dan French, of Nampa-based French Homes Inc., applied for the subdivision and owns the land.
Bieter wants train to foster development
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has long championed a Downtown rail-based transit system. Now, he says the benefits of a train circulator between Downtown and the Boise State University campus are worth $88 million more than a bus system.
An estimate put together with an engineering consultant says the train would cost $111 million to set up, compared with $23 million for new buses. And it would cost 50 percent more to operate. But the rail system would attract 300 more riders per day, inducing long-term economic development worth close to $600 million, the estimate says.
Closure may end Idaho horse racing
Historical racing enabled Les Bois Park to increase prize money by 72 percent. The wagering machines were lucrative while they were legal, bringing in total bets of nearly $2 million a week on average. Live and simulcast wagering at Les Bois in 2014 totaled just $17 million.
When lawmakers pulled the plug on the machines, they forced Les Bois to close. Now, racehorse owners must go out of state to find competitive races.
“It will be very difficult for the remaining small tracks to generate enough purse money to continue to draw the interests of horsemen without the economic purse structure boost that Les Bois provided,” says Mike Clements, president of the East Idaho Horsemen’s Association.
Chobani gives workers stake in ownership
The yogurt maker’s CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, says Chobani is giving about 2,000 full-time employees, including 1,000 at the Twin Falls plant, ownership stakes worth about 10 percent of the company.
Each employee’s shares will be apportioned based on time worked at the company. The average is likely to be about $150,000, but the company’s earliest employees could receive a million-dollar stake.
Boise halts Glenbrook Apartments renovation
A city inspector in late April put the brakes on a remodel of the Glenbrook Apartments, on the 500 block of Curtis Road, saying its owners did not have required building permits.
In September 2015, the owners of Glenbrook gave about 400 tenants in the complex a 30-day eviction notice, prompting an outcry from advocates because many of the tenants were low-income or refugees.
Viticultural designation to boost Idaho wines
Idaho and Washington wineries in the Lewis-Clark Valley now have the American Viticultural Area designation, giving them a new marketing tool.
About 72 percent of the 479-square-mile region is in north-central Idaho, including area around Lewiston.
The designation, approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, enables wineries there to label their bottles as “estate wines,” meaning 100 percent of the grapes were grown on winery-owned land within the region.
Uber drivers squeezed
A fare cut has prompted some Treasure Valley Uber drivers to quit or reduce hours. Uber slashed its per-mile fare from $1.75 to $1 in January.
One driver says he now earns less than Idaho’s $7.25 hourly minimum wage, after expenses. The cut led some drivers to quit.
Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo says driver and rider numbers have increased since Uber launched here in 2014 — and since the fare cut.
Judge says Clearwater wrongly retaliated
Clearwater Paper Corp. employee Anthony Tenny complained to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration about health hazards at the company’s Lewiston sawmill. Spokane-based Clearwater fired him about a month later.
Now, a federal judge says the firing was in retaliation for the complaint and ordered the company to pay him $234,751. A Clearwater spokesman said there are “many things we disagree with in the decision,” and the company is weighing an appeal.
Can the Valley support more breweries?
The number of microbreweries across the nation and in the Treasure Valley has roughly doubled since 2009. Two more — Mad Swede and Lost Grove — plan to open in Boise this summer. Vista, Calif.-based Mother Earth Brewing Co. plans a 40,000-square-foot brew house in Nampa. Idaho’s largest producer, Payette Brewing in Garden City, plans to push toward the 100,000-barrel-per-year mark.
The Treasure Valley has five breweries per 100,000 residents of legal drinking age, compared with seven or more in the microbrew hotbeds Portland and Bend in Oregon. One brewer thinks the Treasure Valley could support Oregon’s numbers.
Manufacturing plant planned in Caldwell
American Food Equipment Co. is building a $7.7 million plant that eventually will create up to 89 jobs paid an average salary of $44,800 in Canyon County.
The 61,000-square-foot plant is scheduled to open by late fall on a 10-acre parcel at 4814 E. Linden Road, in Caldwell’s Sky Ranch Business Center. The company also is building a 6,400-square-foot office.
The California company received a tax break worth $665,000 from Idaho.
Valley stores close
▪ Jerry’s 27th Street Market, a grocery store and restaurant that was a fixture in the North End, closed at the end of April.
▪ Hancock Fabrics, in the shopping center at Cole and Ustick roads, is slated to close in June after the national company’s bankruptcy.
▪ Kindness has closed its Downtown restaurant, bar and catering business, citing “recent developments [that] made our transition and long-term business viability impossible.”
▪ Chase’s Natural Foods at Orchard and Overland is closed, with the owners saying they have retired.
▪ Aeropostale is closing clothing stores in Twin Falls and Chubbuck as the company goes through bankruptcy. The Boise Towne Square mall and Idaho Falls Grand Teton Mall stores will stay open.
Idaho 1st in job growth
The steepest rise in employment during the past year was in Idaho, where employment grew 3.6 percent. That is seasonally adjusted and does not include farm jobs.
Several times in the past year, Idaho has ranked at the top of the nation for job growth. About 24,000 Idaho jobs were filled between March 2015 and March 2016.
Firm creates night-vision GoPro camera
The small Boise-based technology company Aviation Specialties Unlimited has made a name for itself by outfitting pilots with night vision. Its newest invention, the Ecliptus, is its first-ever retail product, with a sticker price of more than $5,000.
The company already is filling orders to ship the device — which essentially gives the GoPro camera a night-vision capability — to buyers such as the U.S. Army and the New York Police Department.
Skating rink in Meridian?
A couple that moved to the Treasure Valley from the Seattle area last year wants to build a new skating rink at Franklin and Linder roads in Meridian.
Scott and Tammy Stevens are looking for investors and business partners to help build the rink from scratch for $3.5 million.
Nampa RollerDrome is the only rink in the valley. Several others closed in recent decades.
St. Luke’s violated FMLA
St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center was found in a U.S. Labor Department investigation to have had “systemic violations” of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects employees from losing jobs or benefits when taking FMLA-covered leave.
St. Luke’s “immediately remedied the violations” and was “very cooperative,” the department says.
NNU student lands yogurt franchise
Martin Lira, a global business and accounting major at Northwest Nazarene University, is taking over a Cherry Berry Self-Serve Yogurt Bar franchise near Tulsa, Okla.
Lira, a graduate of Skyview High School in Nampa, beat out two other NNU students to win a large discount on the typical $350,000 franchise cost from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, whose founder, Frank Crail, is an NNU supporter.
This roundup is part of the May 18-June 14, 2016 edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.